Top Trotting Mares Clash In Six Pack
Friday, June 30, 2023
Quite possibly, the most interesting match-up of the eight Grand Circuit stakes on the Meadowlands Saturday night card takes place in the $112,500 Six Pack (Sponsored by the Six Pack Syndicate).
In that stake, race six on the evening, defending Dan Patch Trotter of the Year and reigning “Queen of the Trot” Bella Bellini and the current “Princess in Waiting” as it were, Jiggy Jog S will cross paths for the first time.
Bella Bellini’s story is well told, The now 5-year-old daughter of Bar Hopping has dominated her class the past two seasons after failing to impress during her debutante freshman campaign to the point where her handlers considered moving on from her.
Fortune smiled when they didn’t, and in return she has rewarded owner/breeder Dave McDuffe and trainer Nifty Norman to the tune of more than $2.3 million in career bounty while winning virtually every major stake for her division at ages 3 and 4.
American-bred but raised in Sweden, Jiggy Jog’s owner Jorgen Sparrendal placed the Walner filly in the Svanstedt barn from the start. He has exhibited great confidence throughout, illustrated by having chosen to race in the Hambo over a much easier spot in the Oaks for his star filly last year.
Jiggy Jog S has labored in the shadow of others through much of her career. She suffered the misfortune of being in the same crop as the precocious Venerable (ironically owned and trained by McDuffee and Norman) in a moderately successful freshman season.
While Venerable struggled at three, Joviality S stepped in. She looked invincible early, won a million dollars and took year-end honors by a six vote margin over Jiggy Jog S despite a resume that included wins in a heat of the Hambletonian, the Kentucky Filly Futurity and the Breeders Crown (defeating Joviality in each).
Now, Joviality S has taken her show to Europe and will be racing around the continent, leaving these two behind to battle for the crown.
Oh, yeah, there’s one other thing. The single crucial common thread between the two is Dexter Dunn. The four time defending Driver of the Year has been the regular driver for both. In fairness, he’s driven Bella in every start but one since she began her three year reign of terror while Jiggy and Dexy paired up for the NJSS 3-year-old final and have been together ever since.
So…what have they done for us lately? Truth is, there was some question about which way Dexter would go when the two mares met.
Thus far in 2023, Bella Bellini has won but once in five starts and lost both big money stakes in which she has raced. Bella simply has not demonstrated that air of invincibility as she did pretty much all of last season.
On the other hand, Jiggy Jog S has looked super-fantastic thus far with wins in both of her seasonal starts in the Graduate Series over a clearly overmatched cream of the 4-year-old trotting horse crop. Both in 1:50 and change, as easy as pie.
The Six Pack is just that, a six mare field and they drew right next to each other as posts 1 and 2 so there is no advantage there. Objective handicapping gives the current form edge to Jiggy Jog here as she launches her coup upon the Queen. Meadowlands oddsmaker Edison Hatter awards a very slight nod to Jiggy Jog at 7/5 with Bella a mere tick higher at 8/5 on the morning line.
The million dollar question here, as many horseplayers place great stock in driver choices as an important indicator, was which mare will Dexter drive.
Drum roll please…Dexter has chosen to stick with “Queen Bella” in this one. Trainer Ake Svanstedt will drive Jiggy Jog on Saturday.
I spoke with Dunn about his decision, “Seems it is a good problem to have and I’m fortunate to drive both but it’s very difficult,” he began.
“Bella’s been great for a good long stretch and of course there is a sense of loyalty for all she and the connections and I have accomplished together. And she’s still Bella Bellini despite not the best start, she’ll get stronger.”
“I’ve got history with Jiggy Jog as well and she came back great. She’s far more powerful this year, I could see quite a difference physically when she qualifed and she’s arguably in better form at the moment.”
“Ultimately, it helped me choose that Ake can drive Jiggy this week then next week comes the Graduate final which Bella won’t be in. But if you’re asking from a handicapping perspective, you wouldn’t be reaching to say it’s a coin flip.”
So even from the driver’s perspective, it’s a tough choice with the trip likely playing a larger role in who prevails.
Does that help? I’m not sure it does!
What I do know that it is going to be fun to watch these two great mares battle, hopefully over the entire course of the season.
Saturday’s races will be shown to a national television audience as part of the New York Racing Association’s “America’s Day at the Races” presentation, which can be seen on Fox Sports 2 from 8-11 p.m. Jessica Otten and Gabe Prewitt will provide the harness commentary on the program. Free full card programs are available on the web.
Sixth Race SIX PACK Mares Open Trot Purse $112,500
1 BELLA BELLINI DeDunn RNNorman
2 JIGGY JOG S AkSvanstdt AkSvanstdt
3 WARRAWEE XENIA BrSears MaSteacy
4 FASHION SCHOONER TiTetrick JiCampbell
5 RAISED BY LINDY YaGingras DoCecere
6 ETERNAL LEE AnMcCarthy ChRyder
May the best mare win!